NAIROBI, Kenya, June 4 – Five suspects charged with committing the terrorist act that led to the death of 148 students at the Garissa University College in April, finally took their pleas on Thursday.
The five had been in police custody for two months having been arrested less than 48 hours after the early morning April 2 attack.
The prosecution had sought for more time to conclude investigations while the suspects remained in police custody given the seriousness of the charges they are facing.
Mohamed Ali Abikar, Hassan Edin Hassan, Sahal Diriye Hussein, Osman Abdi Dagane and Rashid Charles Mberesero, a Tanzanian national, denied conspiring to commit a terrorist act and the 148 separate counts of committing a terrorist act which resulted in the death of 142 Garissa University College students and six members of the security forces.
For every person whose death the terrorist act resulted in, a separate charge was read out.
Mberesero also faced the additional charges of being a member of a terrorist group and being unlawfully in Kenya; both of which he also denied.
Mberesero was first taken to court later than his co-accused after intelligence officers swore that he had admitted to have been on his way to join the Al Shabaab terror group when the Garissa terror attack took place.
He was found hiding at the University by security agents during the attack and the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit said he had provided vital, time sensitive intelligence during interrogation that they needed to act on with his help.
In spite of the serious nature of the charges they are facing, the suspects applied for release on bond claiming to have been subjected to torture during their extended detention.
Accusations the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions through Duncan Ondimu denied.
“No questions of torture were ever raised. So clearly this is an afterthought after they’ve discovered the seriousness of the charges that they are facing. They’re trying to create a diversion,” he countered.
Senior Principal Magistrate Daniel Ogembo is expected to give his decision on the application for release on bond on June 11 but has set August 24 and 25 aside as hearing dates after the prosecution informed him that it intends to call more than 30 witnesses.
The prosecution said it also needed the time to apply for witness protection in the High Court.